copyright © Jedo Dre 2011

Euro Truck Simulator 2



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Impact: Average

There has been a surprising amount of truck games over the last two decades. Considering that truck simulators are not really racing games, if you wanted to compare their numbers to the numbers of car simulators you would have to compare them to non-racing car simulators, of which there are very few in existence. This is probably because in a truck sim you get to live out the curious fantasy of driving a big powerful truck without having to own this expensive machine, while all you have to do if you want to drive a car is walk outside and put the key in the ignition of your hatchback. Let us see if Euro Truck Simulator 2 can provide us with a fulfillment of our long-range trucking curiosity.


GAMEPLAY


The basic premise is simple: pick out of an available pool of transportation jobs offered by several companies and drive the goods to its destination located in or around one of the cities across Europe. Points and/or cash are deducted for misbehaving, such as breaking traffic rules or damaging cargo. Upon a successful completion of a delivery you are paid and given experience points that go towards raising your skill level. Initially you make deliveries with trucks provided by other companies, but once you have made some progress in the game, you are able to buy your own truck (with a possibility to fund it using a loan from a bank). Using your own truck for deliveries gets you higher payments, but you also have to worry about keeping your truck fueled and maintained.


As you rise through the levels, new skills can be unlocked that enable new types of deliveries that provide higher cash and experience rewards. Higher levels also unlock more game content, such as custom parts for your truck and higher bank loans.


In addition to running your own deliveries, the game provides you with a possibility to run a company. When you first start the game you create a name for your company and are given a basic garage. As you discover employment agencies in new towns that you visit, you are able to hire new AI drivers to make deliveries for your company. Like you, these drivers also increase in level with time and start bringing in more and more money. You do need to buy a truck for each driver first. Your garage can be expanded to add support for more trucks and drivers and new garages can be bought all across Europe. This business mechanic becomes more prominent in the later part of the game when you already have a customized truck you wanted and you have already moved many types of cargos back and forth across Europe, so that expanding your business gives you something else to do.


Euro Truck Simulator 2 may have a bit of a problem that starts with the word "Simulator" used in its name. This is not just a simulator, but as evident from the above examples, contains elements that make it quite a fun game as well. The problem is that the kind of people who enjoy the "game" part of a game are also the kind of people who are less likely to buy a simulator, since many such players consider simulators boring. At the same time, the fans of the simulator genre, who are the target audience for this type of games, may be put off by the all these arcade gameplay elements like the leveling system. Plus Euro Truck Simulator 2 is not at the forefront when it comes to its realism elements either. Sure the cabin interior is detailed and there are things like traffic rules and a simple truck damage system, but beyond that there is not much that would make you note this to be a simulator. This is a problem this game shares with many other games with the word "Simulator" in their name. So then, I wonder if the game will find a sufficiently large target audience as it walks the fine line between simulation and fun, but it seems there isn't much of a problem, considering the amount of user created content and support for the first game in these series.


There are many little pleasant surprises. The aforementioned company mechanic is one. Another example is that you can connect to a real life radio station while driving. Why don't all racing games have that?! Also, similar to the previous games, it has a dedicated modding community. This is often overlooked when reviewing at a game, but a sufficient amount of downloadable mods can greatly extend a game's value, and often reflect developers' effort in making the game mod-friendly.



GRAPHICS


It is a mixed bag when it comes to graphics. The trees, the most commonly observed objects while driving, look like the old-school cardboard cutouts from a game out of 2002; stars are visible right through the clouds; and at the moment there is also an anti-aliasing problem many players are experiencing. However, as you explore a wavy Swiss road on a random morning and the sunbeams playfully run through the canopy of the pines that pass you by and the tarmac is gleaming in the sun as you make a turn for Italy, the overall effect works really well. The same can be said for other weather types and times of day. There is also an attention to detail, as the developers seem to have scoured the European continent to make sure all its main landmarks are present in their game. This attention to detail also translates to the truck models that look great, especially where it matters most for a simulator – the cabin interior.



AUDIO


The game does not come with much of a soundtrack. While navigating the menus you hear a simple midi concoction and there is no stock music during driving. Instead, you are given a music folder where you can dump your favorite on-the-road tunes, and as mentioned earlier, you have an in-game access to several real-life radio stations.


As for the sound effects, apart from a few minor oddities, they are all you can expect, though without exceeding any of those expectations.



PERFORMANCE


This is where there are a few annoying issues. On a 1280x1204 resolution, for most part, the maximum graphical settings can be maintained on a modern computer. However, it is difficult to get anti-aliasing to work properly (you might need external tools to do so) and a widescreen resolution seems to destroy the frame rate, while the very same settings seem to work smoothly for a non-widescreen resolution. Other than that the game runs fine: loading times are short; alt+tab can be used quickly to get in and out of the game; and freezes or crashes are relatively rare.



VERDICT


Euro Truck Simulator 2 is a surprisingly fun game with good value for money. It provides a good balance between game and realism, similar to games like Test Drive Unlimited. A dedicated fan base shows that the game can find an audience for this balanced style, and in this reviewer's opinion, this relatively cheap game about trucks has proven to be of higher quality and of more fun than many of the recent higher budget installments such as Dirt 3…ironies of life.